‘Kaala,’ first Indian film in Saudi cinemas, gimmicky at best

Indian fans take pictures as they celebrate next to a poster of Bollywood star Rajinikanth outside a cinema on the first day of release of his new Tamil-language film ‘Kaala,’ in Chennai on June 7, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 17 June 2018
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‘Kaala,’ first Indian film in Saudi cinemas, gimmicky at best

  • Rajinikanth remains a man who has to fall back on gimmicks
  • At 167 minutes, the film could have been liberally trimmed as the story has little novelty on offer

CHENNAI: A film with Tamil actor Rajinikanth is a like a carnival, but unlike a conventional one, there is more reverence here than just fun. The superstar, who is respectfully addressed as “thalaivar,” or chief, is not just an icon, but a phenomenon. Last week, Pa Ranjith-helmed, Rajinikanth-starrer “Kaala” became the first Indian film to open in newly re-launched Saudi cinemas — it sees Rajinikanth appear as an underworld don called Karikaalan.

Invariably dressed in a black dhoti and a black shirt, Kaala is not evil personified — as the color is often meant to denote – but goodness glorified. Playing godfather to his tribe of Tamils in Dharavi, the second largest slum in the world after one in Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro, he is provoked into a battle when a huge corporate, headed by a gangster-turned-minister Hari Dada (played by Nana Patekar), tries to demolish Dharavi and evict hundreds of its inhabitants.

In the war that ensues between Karikaalan and Hari, the star’s wife, Selvi (played by Eswari Rao) and eldest son, are killed, leaving a heartbroken husband and father, who does not choose a path of revenge, but merely carries on as a good Samaritan.

At 167 minutes, the film could have been liberally trimmed as the story has little novelty on offer. The movie follows a beaten track that is strewn with dead bodies and covered with blood and gore. A confrontation between the protagonist and Hari takes on various hues, but ends up presenting little that can be revelatory or surprising.

Rajinikanth remains a man who has to fall back on gimmicks (earlier it was flicking a cigarette in the air and catching it between his lips, and this time it is playing with his dark glasses) to keep his fans interested.

But, yes, if the film falls rather flat because its lead actor looks tired — he is 67-years-old — and is unable to think of different characters (unlike Bollywood’s Amitabh Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor, who have given themselves a complete image makeover). Fine pieces of acting by Patekar infuse sparks of excellence into the narrative, however.

Unless Rajinikanth steps away from the gimmicks to take on more substantial roles, his movies may continue to be less than impressive.


Kyrgyz singer receives death threats over feminist video

Updated 21 September 2018
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Kyrgyz singer receives death threats over feminist video

  • Zere Asylbek’s music video ‘Kyz’ became a sensation in the Central Asian country following its release last week
  • In the video Asylbek sings that ‘a time will come when nobody will tell me: Don’t wear it, don’t do it’

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan: A 19-year-old singer in Kyrgyzstan has filed a complaint with police after receiving death threats over a music video she released targeting gender discrimination in the ex-Soviet republic.
Zere Asylbek’s music video “Kyz” became a sensation in the Central Asian country following its release last week but has angered conservatives who say it insults national values, focusing on the singer’s visible underwear.
Asylbek said that she had filed reports with police in the capital Bishkek after receiving numerous threats of physical violence including several death threats.
One threat posted by an anonymous Facebook profile to a group on the social media platform threatened to kill her if the video was not deleted.
Another user whose post Asylbek sent as a screenshot to AFP wrote that they “would gladly join” the first commentator, and “rip your head off.”
“Kyz,” which means girl in the Kyrgyz language had had more than 217,000 views on YouTube by Friday and is Asylbek’s first released song.
Asylbek said on Thursday that the video’s main message was to “respect the person you really are” while also “respecting the choices, opinions and ways of life of others.”
The video features Asylbek dressed in a suit jacket and skirt with a purple bra underneath, a woman wearing a hijab, a woman wearing a Kyrgzy-style headscarf and a woman with a partly shaved head, showing Kyrgyz society’s diversity.
In the video Asylbek sings that “a time will come when nobody will tell me: Don’t wear it, don’t do it.”
She also calls on the other women featured in the clip to “join me, create our own freedom.”
Asylbek said that she had expected her choice of different women representing different facets of society to be understood as provocative but was surprised at the online attention devoted to her purple bra.
In a Facebook post her father Asylbek Zhoodonbekov voiced support, calling his daughter “a free-thinking daughter of a free Kyrgyzstan.”
He said she had grown more politically conscious after a recent incident in which a man killed a young woman in a police station after attempting to abduct her for a forced marriage.
The murder in May sparked protests in Kyrgyzstan, a poor, majority-Muslim country where thousands of women are kidnapped for marriage every year in a practice dating back to the country’s nomadic past while law enforcement is accused of ignoring the problem.